Disputes about equality and discrimination
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) deals with all complaints of discrimination in employment and access to goods and services.
If you complain to the WRC about an equality or discrimination dispute, your complaint will either be handled using mediation or adjudication – see more below.
These complaints come under the following equality legislation:
|The legislation||What the legislation does|
|The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015||These Acts ban discrimination at work.
They cover discrimination about:
Recruitment and promotion
Training or experience
Harassment, including sexual harassment.
Read more about Equality in the workplace.
|The Equal Status Acts 2000–2015||
These Acts ban discrimination outside the workplace, in particular in:
The provision of goods and services
Selling, renting or leasing property (including the "housing assistance ground")
Certain aspects of education.
Victimisation is also covered by equality legislation. Victimisation occurs when a person is treated less favourably than another person because they opposed discrimination, or were involved in a complaint of unlawful discrimination. Read more about victimisation at work.
The Workplace Relations Commission also deals with complaints of discrimination on the grounds of gender under the Pensions Acts 1990–2015 in relation to occupational benefit or pensions schemes.
When you make a complaint under equality legislation, you may be offered workplace mediation. Mediation is a voluntary, private and confidential process, unlike adjudication hearings which are usually held in public – see ‘Adjudication’ below.
Mediation can be carried out by phone, video, or face-to-face meetings.
During mediation, a mediator helps you and your employer come to an agreement. At the end of mediation, both sides sign an agreement which is legally binding. This means both sides must keep to the terms of the decision. The agreement is not published.
If you do not reach an agreement through mediation, you can ask for your case to be brought to adjudication - see 'Adjudication' below.
Read more about mediation on workplacerelations.ie.
If mediation is not used or is not successful, your complaint or dispute is referred to an adjudication officer within the Workplace Relations Commission. The adjudication officer will carry out an inquiry, including a hearing, and make a legally binding decision. This hearing is usually held in public, except in exceptional circumstances.
The adjudicator’s decisions will include one or more of the following:
- An order for equal pay or equal treatment
- An order that somebody takes a specified action.
Read more about the adjudication process, including the importance of gathering evidence and what to expect from the hearing.
How to make a complaint about employment rights
Depending on the law you are making your complaint under, you must follow certain timeframes.
Complaints under the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 and complaints about discrimination in pensions
In general, complaints must be brought within 6 months. The time limit can be extended by a further 6 months, but only if there is reasonable cause for the delay. You should make your complaint using the WRC's online complaint form.
Complaint under the Equal Status Acts 2000–2015
You must first tell the person or organisation you are making the complaint against within 2 months of the last act of discrimination.
To do this, you complete ES.1 form (pdf) and send it to the person or organisation you are making the complaint against. The time limit for notification can be extended to 4 months by the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission.
If you are not happy with the person's or organisation’s response, or if they have not responded within 1 month from the date you notified them, you can take your complaint to the WRC using the online complaint form. Read about how to make a complaint, including details of the adjudication process.
Decisions made by an adjudication officer can be appealed, to the Labour Court for employment and pensions cases, and to the Circuit Court for equal status cases. Appeals must be made within 42 days of when the decision was issued.
Read detailed information about making a complaint to the WRC (pdf).
More information about equality complaints
You can read or download a free guide to taking an employment equality case from the Community Law and Mediation (CLM) website. CLM also offers free legal information, advice and mediation services.
You can find information about employment equality and equal status, as well as a list of frequently asked questions, on the WRC website. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission also provides information on equality legislation to the public.
You can also contact the Workplace Relations Commission for advice using their Information and Customer Service – see contact details below.